While the over a decade war against Boko Haram terrorists has rendered many homeless, orphans, and widows, the war recently took a new twist with the gale of surrender by insurgents, TARKAA DAVID writes.
Records show that over 3,000 terrorists have either surrendered, captured in the last months, which has made concerned citizens express their opinions. While others laud the development as a sign of an end to the war, others see it as a strategy to spy from within and the need for government to do more.
The figure of surrendered troops includes the 1009 suspects that were cleared and released to the Borno State government on 14 July 2021. This is aside from the 606 repentant terrorists which were rehabilitated and reintegrated under the federal government’s Operation Safe Corridor. Despite opposing opinions, the programme has graduated and reintegrated 886 repentant Boko Haram Terrorists/Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) into the society.
According to Statista 2021, Boko Haram Terrorists have between 2011-2021
killed 32,820 people in Borno State, 4,009 in Adamawa, 3,804 in Kaduna, 3,705 in Zamfara,3,705 in Benue, 2,929 in Yobe, and 2854 in Plateau States.
Nigeria is ranked second highest in the world in terrorist attacks after Afghanistan which has recently fallen to Taliban rule.
A public affairs analyst Banjo Daniel in an interview with LEADERSHIP said granting amnesty to the Boko Haram Terrorists is being unfair to the victims of the Boko Haram insurgency.
He also doubted the originality of people presented as surrendered terrorists, adding that every criminal should face the justice system.
“The people I saw on social media of BHT/ISWAP surrendering. I have my doubt. Most of the people recorded are women and children and if you look at the men, they don’t look like what I expect Boko Haram Terrorists to have gone through so the whole situation has been politicised.
“Don’t forget that most of these bandits and terrorists were thugs to politicians.
If it is true that these people are surrendering because of the amnesty they are giving them or because of the lots of sorties or death they are incurring, however, for any criminal, the justice system must take its cause.
“Though the precedent has been set by the previous government when the Niger Delta militants and associates were killing not just civilians but military personnel, they were given amnesty, some were sent to school, others placed in a hotel and given money up till now I heard some are still collecting salaries for work not done.
“A criminal remains a criminal and I don’t think any religion supports the rehabilitation of criminal but that has been done. Unfortunately, we don’t have much say on this thing. I still have my doubt that the pack of people surrendering are Boko Haram Terrorists.
“It is unfair to grant them amnesty because of things they have done. However the government probably has a reason to do that and if it is done they must have a detailed system on how to get them rehabilitated, indoctrinated, and reintegrated into the society.”
He said if a criminal surrender, just as it is done the world over, the justice system is there and so he should be taken to court for prosecution for his crimes.
Another veteran Abdullahi Awwal said it is a good sign to see terrorists surrendering to troops.
He said there is a need for them to be protected from those that they betrayed in the bush and be rehabilitated and reintegrated without prosecution.
He said in every war situation, there are prisoners of war, that is those captured by troops while on the active participation of the war and there are those that surrender voluntarily.
“Is it necessary to give them, amnesty? I say yes. In the history of war, if an opponent surrenders willingly, the rule of engagement says you should receive him and treat him with dignity and respect. This means you are supposed to rehabilitate him and integrate him back into the community because he, realizes that what he is doing is wrong and is willing to submit himself to authority for the necessary action.
“If you don’t do that to him, those that submit themselves willingly and you decide that after submitting you now decide to criminalize them and then prosecute them, it means those that might likely surrender like them will not because they will say surrendering has no means because even if you surrender, you will still be prosecuted at the end of the day so it’s even better we fight the war and be killed in the process rather than surrender and be prosecuted like a coward.
So, if they surrender, it is right for the government to give them amnesty, rehabilitate them and integrate them into the community.” he said
He noted however that the treatment given prisoners of war is different from those who voluntarily surrender themselves to authority either out of pressure or just on their own that they feel that they are tired of what is going on they won’t submit themselves.
“So, you can look at this in two or three different ways. The first angle is, as they are surrendering, are we winning the war? I will say yes, it’s a means of winning the war. It has never happened in the history of this Boko Haram. This number of people are surrendering with their arms and ammunition.”
He said the surrendered terrorists could be a resource to the troops to extract credible intelligence that will help in the fight.
“Now the enemy is surrendering and giving information about those that refused to surrender but then, they will also be needing protection because once you surrender, you need protection against those that you have betrayed because they will do everything humanly possible to make sure that they bring them down so that they don’t give you information about them.
“So, if you look at it in this context, it means we are already winning the war, and it’s also indicating that the insurgency is coming to an end by the special grace of God. Coming to the angle of those surrendering, should they be trusted or not, are they entitled to amnesty, and if they are entitled to amnesty, how do we do it? And if u give them amnesty, what happens to the families of those they killed and properties they have destroyed, what do you do to those people.
About the properties and families of those they have destroyed and killed, it is now the responsibility of the government, that is why it is called government. It is two-way traffic” he said
Awwal urged the government to look into the issue and provide the necessary compensation to the families of victims.
“ To make them understand that now that these guys have surrendered, it means there is going to be peace in their region, their life is going to come back to normal, there is going to be economic, educational, agricultural development, and all aspects of development. So which one would they have preferred? Continuous war or surrendering and giving amnesty so that the war will come to an end? These are two critical things.
“As I said, you can provide amnesty to those you have believed strongly that these have surrendered holistically, patriotically, nationalistically, with the will and zeal to reintegrate themselves back to the community and also as repentant criminals that will never go back to crime,” he said.
About the properties and families of those they have destroyed and killed, it is now the responsibility of the government, that is why it is called government. It is two-way traffic.
Use psychologists to assert if they are ready to surrender or just shedding crocodile tears looking for an opportunity to also attack once the chance is given or coming to become an informant of what is going on so that those that are there in the bush will use the information and be attacking our troops. So dis is the two-way traffic.
The director of Army public relations, Brig Gen Onyema Nwachukwu in an exclusive chat with LEADERSHIP said the gale of surrendering is due to a combination of kinetic and non-kinetic approaches to tackle the situation in northeast Nigeria that is yielding results.
The troops deployed for Operation Hadin Kai accepts surrendered Boko Haram/Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorists in conformity with the international laws of arms conflict.
He said the surrendering insurgents have decided to abandon their cause and struggle, having realised that it is a struggle in futility.
“Strategic conflict mitigation provides an avenue for surrendering insurgents, who having realized that ISWAP is working against the group interest, rather than the common cause of the so-called union of ISWAP/BHT.,” he said
He noted that BHT Commanders have been systematically eliminated by ISWAP high command, while the foot soldiers have been relegated.
He said “the BHTs have therefore decided to toe the line of peace, rather than continue with ISWAP in pursuing interests of foreign non-state actors.
“They have turned their back against ISWAP and showed a preference for surrendering to our troops. As they are surrendering in Nigeria, they are also surrendering in other countries of the Lake Chad commission.
“The actions of Joint Task Force Operation HADIN KAI as a professional force, in receiving and handling of the surrendering insurgents conforms with the provisions of the international law and treaties of conflict, to which is Nigeria is a signatory and this provides that surrendering combatants be taken into custody, investigated and processed and not to take extrajudicial actions against them, as is the expectation in some quarters, no matter the enormity of their offence.
“As a professional military, our role is to take them into custody, profile them and hand them over to relevant agencies of the state for further action.”
He reiterated that the military does not have the power to prosecute the terrorists whether captured in battle or voluntarily surrendered ones.
“It is not in the purview of the military to prosecute or set them free. It will also be prejudicial to mete out any punitive measure on our part.
We cannot as a professional military take laws into our hands.
“This should not be misinterpreted as compromise or weakness. Rather, it should be seen as abiding by global laws of conflict and the provision of the constitution of Nigeria.”
He added that the surrendered insurgents are not camped with internally displaced persons (IDPs).
“These are two different categories of people. Surrendering insurgents are held in different holding facilities, not IDP camps,” he said.
Nigerians can only hope that the government makes rational decisions that will not put them in the date of Afghanistans currently under the rule of the Talibans